Long Arm Quilting – A Professional Perspective

I LOVE my job. Really REALLY love it. That makes it pretty easy for me to wake up every morning keen on what project I get to delve into. That doesn’t mean that every day is a walk in the park. Being a long arm quilter requires a LOT of decision-making considering a wide variety of factors:

1. What does the customer want to spend? Often I will ask the client if they want an all over design or something more custom. Some say they want to keep it inexpensive, which means all over.

all over quilted swirls

all over quilted swirls

Some say they want it for a quilt show, which generally means more $.

very special quilting

very special quilting

I was working on a quilt today that I gave an estimate for at $0.035 per square inch. I charge at least 4 cents when straight lines are involved, so that was not going to happen in this quilt. I had to figure out other designs to work in the spaces instead.

it's coming along

it’s coming along

2. What design does the customer want? Some quilt makers have a vision of what they want the outcome to look like, others want the quilter to ‘do what they do best’ (my FAVORITE thing to hear!) One super important consideration is whether the client prefers a more modern look,

modern quilting

modern quilting

or classic/traditional. Some customers like feathers,

curly border feather

curly border feather

others want more graphic quilting for a modern outcome.

straight lines and echo bounce

straight lines and echo bounce

3. What does the fabric say? That is where I often look for inspiration. If there are swirls, curls, flowers or circles on the fabric, those patterns induce me to quilt something similar.

flowers inspired by fabric

flowers inspired by fabric

4. What does the pattern say? This is really important, even with all over designs.

circles translated to Baptist fans

circles translated to Baptist fans

When I receive Quilts Of Valor, they often have star patterns on them. With that type of pattern I quilt in a curvy pattern, so as not to accentuate the sharp angles already present in the pattern.

swirls on stars

swirls on stars

With a custom design, such as today’s project, there are sometimes various blocks that will each be quilted differently. Two things can be exemplified at this point: depth and movement.

A. Depth – by quilting at different densities (more quilting in one area than another, such as in the photos below), one can create depth in the quilt surface. It gives the flat surface more personality aside from the change in quilting pattern.

pinwheels with depth

pinwheels with depth

depth by quilting

depth by quilting

B. Movement – pinwheels come to mind here, because this block is one that emulates a moving object. So to quilt it in a fashion that simulates movement also adds visual appeal to the quilt. The pinwheels above showcase this as well as those below.

pinwheel movement

pinwheel movement

from below

from below

5. Overall cohesion is INCREDIBLY important to the quilt, and with custom quilts this is where planning comes into play. Using the quilt I was working on today again as the example, I have red triangles inside the quilt as well as along the border. I haven’t quilted either yet because I want them to tie in to one another and haven’t made the final decision as to the design. Also, with the pinwheels (the ‘background’ spokes), I wanted to quilt them more densely than the curls on the forefront spokes, and actually tested out a small meander.

meander vs. wavy lines

meander vs. wavy lines

But it seemed out of place so I removed those stitches and tried the wavy lines, which I felt added the movement in the photo above. I may end up using wavy lines in the red spaces as well.

There can be other factors, such as timeframe (less time = less quilting), anticipated drape (highly quilted quilts are much stiffer), and quilt use intention (I often tell customers they may not want custom quilting on a gift for a 4 year old, it will get washed 100 times and they won’t know the difference).

Regardless of the time it takes to come up with the perfect quilting pattern, it is highly rewarding to reach that light-bulb moment and then find that your conception has become a beautiful reality. Happy quilting my friends!

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How to Recover from a Longarm Quilting ‘Mistake’

I have some great mentors in the quilting world. I also take on the opportunity to learn from as many other quilters and quilts that I see at shows, shops and wherever else they pop up.

One mentor told me that as soon as I decided I didn’t like the pattern I was quilting to STOP IMMEDIATELY, because otherwise I would have to do the entire quilt with that pattern, no matter how painful or tedious the experience.

Another mentor told me, if you make a mistake three times while quilting (meaning variation from the pattern you wished to quilt) then it was not a mistake, it was now part of the pattern.

Both of those bits of advice are quite sound, and I’ve learned my lessons, sometimes the hard way. But I am happy to tell you that if you think you want to do a certain stitch in an area and DO change your mind, all hope is not lost.

In this particular quilt, I was throwing random feathers into the background, to break up the background quilting and add interest, like in this block below (and around it).

random feathers

random feathers

I had decided to put some within this block. After quilting two feathers in there, I didn’t like the scale, nor that they didn’t look similar enough to belong where I put them. They either needed to be ‘same’y or totally intentionally random, and they were neither. I realized they needed to be removed and the space refilled with the background cover.

So began Operation Unsew:

starting to pull threads

starting to pull threads

This can be tricky, ESPECIALLY if the thread very closely matches the background fabric. If your tension is off, sometimes you can clip a thread (usually underneath the quilt) and remove a long string all at once. But when your tension is good, you have to move very carefully and slowly.

mostly done

mostly done

Bit by bit I clipped a thread and used my sharp, small, curved embroidery scissors to pick the thread out from the lock it had with the bobbin thread. When I can, I clip the bobbin thread and the top thread pulls out a bit easier for a short distance. Those start/stop points are the worst!

thread out, shadow remains

thread out, shadow remains

Finally having all the thread out, we have what remains above. Perhaps a mere shadow of what once was, I needed it to be a disappearing act from what it once was!

Tada!!!

clean slate!

clean slate!

The trick? I use a spray bottle with ONLY water in it, give it a light spray, wipe my clean hand gently over the fabric and then give it 5 minutes to dry out. I’ve done this more than once and not had problems with color bleed, but I cannot guarantee to you that it will not occur. So be VERY careful if you need to use this method on fabrics you worry will bleed.

In the end, I was able to requilt the area and I can’t even tell where the previous stitches were. 🙂

corrected block

corrected block

There was only the evidence below…

mess on the floor afterwards

mess on the floor afterwards

I would not recommend this as an option if your needle wasn’t sharp or if your backing is batik. You COULD use it, but often a dull needle will poke holes through the fabric on back and you may be able to hide the evidence of the crime above, but the tale will be told below! With batiks, the weave of the fabric is so tight, this often happens even with a sharp needle. Check your backing carefully to see if this IS an option, if you find yourself in a position such as mine.

I hope this has helped out any of my quilty friends with ‘mistakes’ that occur. Happy quilting – may your errors be small!

I’ve been busy!

I have begun this year’s project – I’ve cut the pieces for 4 quilts. That’s all the further I’ve really been able to get. But I’ve been busy on other things….

I was going to speak at the Ft. Worth Quilt Guild in June, but was asked if instead I could come in February, to which of course, I responded a resounding YES. This, despite not having the presentation written yet, nor any of the quilts quilted. uh oh?

Nope, not for this girl. The actual presentation isn’t all that complicated. I just needed to get my notes from my brain onto paper in an order that people will understand what I am trying to convey. Then I’ll need to practice and time myself. But for now, I wanted to make sure the quilts were quilted. Mostly for their preservation and partly for my sanity (no one wants to see the backside of my quilt tops, believe me).

So I’ve been quilting them. AND… I’ve been using different battings every time. I have 2 more to go.

I had to special order a few of the batting types, as I don’t normally carry some of the brands and densities of cotton I wanted to use, but I’m almost there.

I thought I would share some photos of what I’ve completed!

January:

January overview, quilted

January overview, quilted

I used a poly cotton blend in this one. LOVE how it turned out!

February contains Quilters Dream Supreme Cotton (their thickest density):

February quilted, overview

February quilted, overview

Here’s a close up of the all over curls:

February all over curls

February all over curls

March, containing Hobbs cotton batting:

march overview, quilted

march overview, quilted

and a close up, just a simple meander:

close up march

close up march

Aprils quilt had issues, meaning I didn’t differentiate enough with the color values, which is what caused this to look like crayon box vomit rather than a distinguished pattern. So I just quilted it in a pattern I seem to love doing now, and the back looks REALLY cool! This one contains Hobbs black poly batting:

april overview, quilted

april overview, quilted

Check out the back of it!!!

back of april, quilted

back of april, quilted

May is not yet quilted. I strung up the back today and it wasn’t large enough for the top, so I used that back for a charity quilt instead and need to put a new back together for May. It will contain Warm & Natural cotton batting.

June contains 100% poly, medium loft:

june overview quilted

june overview quilted

And up close:

June up close, quilted

June up close, quilted

July’s quilt is very similar to June, but because of the lack of alternating blocks I thought the arrows were not as visible. So I quilted it in a meander, much like June’s, but for July’s quilt, I avoided quilting over the arrows:

July quilted overview

July quilted overview

I used recycled polyester batting in July’s quilt. It’s extremely light (like poly) and flat (like cotton). Good for a summer quilt. Here’s the close up:

july quilted close up

july quilted close up

August’s quilt contains a high loft polyester, so I quilted this in a VERY loose meander.

august quilted overview

august quilted overview

Here’s the close up – this thing is soooo puffy:

august quilted close up

august quilted close up

September I used Quilters Dream black polyester. It really is the same feel as Hobbs black poly but much softer to the touch. Once inside the quilt, it feels exactly the same.

September quilted overview

September quilted overview

Here’s the close up:

September quilted close up

September quilted close up

I just loved October’s quilt. I wanted to keep it fun, like the focus fabric, so I quilted it in wavy lines horizontally and vertically, alternating in purple and orange thread! This quilt contains Quilters Dream Deluxe cotton batting, their second highest density cotton:

October quilted overview

October quilted overview

Here’s the back, where you can REALLY see the thread and quilting pattern used!

October quilted

October quilted

November is not yet complete. Tomorrow will be her day.

December about killed me today. I decided to use a wool cotton blend by Hobbs. It quilted beautifully, and feels thin like the cotton. I may use it in Novembers quilt as well, and not quilt it as densely to see how that turns out. Anyway, here is December:

December quilted overview

December quilted overview

December up close quilted

December up close quilted

I quilted the center pinwheels a bit differently to try to make them show up a bit better, which was the whole reason I laid this quilt out like I did in the first place.

This photo shows the sashing and border.

close up December quilted

close up December quilted

But check out the backside!!!!

December quilted backside

December quilted backside

You can see the flower block centers I outlined. This might be my favorite…

OR, January might be my favorite! This is quilt #13, BONUS :). For a presentation, these folks aren’t going to be able to see me hold up a photo in a magazine that helped inspire this project, so I made this quilt to help with my display. Here it is quilted:

January quilted overview

January quilted overview

This one has Hobbs Silk batting. It had a lot rougher feel than I anticipated, but drapes nicely. Here is the close up:

January quilted close up

January quilted close up

So, as you can see, I’ve been busy. Doing my most favorite thing on the planet!

Happy quilting my friends! Don’t forget to check out my website for more photos and inspiration! www.charmingprintsquilting.com. XO, maria

 

Monthly Block – January (BONUS)

Thought I was done, didn’t ya? Thought it was over? Me too, until I realized a few things.

1. This is now a guild presentation. It would be very hard for me to ensure everyone in the audience sees the block when I hold this up in front of a large group:

"THE" block

“THE” block

2. I have seen ‘modern’ quilts represented as giant blocks that only a few blocks are needed to make an entire quilt. So I thought I’d see what happened if I did that.

The result was interesting. Here is my sketch (looks a lot like the rest of them, but simpler):

sketch

sketch

My focus fabric was the flowers in the center, and the border is the same fabric, but without the flowers on top. I have fabric in many colors that match the colors within that focus fabric, and my drawing shows use of them all, but that looked too mish-mashy to me. I wanted it cleaner, so I went with one for the arrows, one for the off-setting triangles, and blue as the background for the arrows so they’d really stand out.

My secondary plan was to use NOT blue. Maybe purple or brown, but I really liked the blue there. And I was going to use a green to frame the center square and then go around the arrows but inside the border, like 1″ thin border. But I didn’t like how it looked when I laid it out. So I didn’t do it.

green inner border

green inner border

I can say this thing went together lightning fast! The toughest part was cutting the triangles, since the hypotenuse was bigger than my ruler! Each block (there are 9 blocks within the border) measures 18″ finished).

OK ONE more note – lighting ENTIRELY makes the difference. I wanted to post this last night, but took my photos after dark, and here is the result of THAT:

dark photo

dark photo

Light photo (this morning):

January 15 quilt

January 15 quilt

So let’s compare!

January result – all scraps in turquoise, bright pink and green (and white)

finished quilt top

finished quilt top

February result – scrap white and purple dyed, sashing matches center blocks (focal fabric)

February quilt

February quilt

March result – different center, but magenta and purple and white match it. I placed the white and purple triangles specifically to ensure the pinwheel came out

march quilt

march quilt

April result – crayon box threw up. center squares were inspiration, all brights were scraps that matched lines in center squares. totally random placement

april quilt

april quilt

May’s version – I think this should be called sunburst

may version of monthly block

may version of monthly block

Here is the quilt WITH the border –

may quilt top with border

may quilt top with border

I keep these two photos in here because I think it’s SO important to include a border on quilts. It makes a frame, which is like closure for your eyes. I think it makes a quilt look finished.

And here’s June –

June version quilt top

June version quilt top

And, July

Julys quilt top

Julys quilt top

While I like the more complete/less sparse look of July over June, I think if I made this quilt top in different colors, with something lighter than the red, that I might like the finished product even more.

August:

August monthly version

August monthly version

September:

September monthly version

September monthly version

October:

October quilt

October quilt

November:

November quilt top

November quilt top

December:

December quilt

December quilt

And January:

January 15 quilt

January 15 quilt

See how many different quilts can be made with just one block and a little imagination? Don’t be put off by a quilt pattern photo in colors you don’t like – give the pattern a good, hearty look, and consider how YOU could make it with fabric you DO like! Or change the setting, add alternating blocks even! It might end up becoming your favorite quilt!

I can’t guarantee this will be the last one…. I’m sort of hooked at this point!

 

my scrap bin threw up

All over the floor. Unlike when that happens with the kids, or the cats, I have yet to clean it up.

my scrap bin threw up

my scrap bin threw up

It’s so bad you can’t even see where the bin IS! That purple one on the right is backings for charity quilts. The scrap bin is BEHIND all that stuff!

The majority of my fabric is behind my long arm machine, neatly arranged by color in these bins:

neat bins of fabric

neat bins of fabric

Looks like my batting scraps are procreating when I’m not looking too. I keep them for rag quilts, charity quilts and small projects, as well as cleaning my long arm bobbin area and wheels. It’s like having tribbles around (for my fellow Star Trek geeks)!

Anyway, when I ran out of room for fabric (ahem…) I got these additional bins, and use them for special fabrics, batiks, my Christmas bin and new stuff that I haven’t figured out exactly what to do with yet.

new bins

new bins

I guess I need to clean that up soon.

But the only way to REALLY clean it up is to USE it! And I do love to make scrap quilts! But I usually organize my scrap bin by sorting it by color, separating out the stuff that looks like it really needs to go together and the batiks and any large amounts of one fabric. Then I separate anything I see with potential into quart baggies for my next retreat. Before I go retreating I find a pattern to match it with and them I’m ready to go! This quilt was made at a retreat last year from scraps and I LOVE it!

rhubarb pie quilt

rhubarb pie quilt

Actually some of the scraps in my bin (or around it?) are leftover from ^this^ quilt. I didn’t want it to get too big so I ended up with more strips/squares cut than I needed for it (those leftovers are actually front and center in that first photo). You can also see bits from the last monthly block atop the heap…

But I really need my area to be a little better organized, so I guess I’ll have to dedicate a day sometime soon to get this mess cleaned up.

Just tell me I’m not the only one with this issue. I can’t possibly be.

Monthly Block – December (just under the wire)

Ahhhhhhhh. I MADE IT THROUGH DECEMBER! Like I said last month, this time of year is ridiculously busy for a long arm quilter. Add in family that wants to spend time together and suddenly there is NO time left for projects.

I panicked about this project last week and tried to work with the panel I’d picked out (see last post). No go. Changed my plan to this:

December plan b

December plan b

Gray, blue and sashing between a set of 4 blocks, because I LOVE how the pinwheels show and really wanted to include them.

As I wasn’t sure what I’d use as that center, I looked through my stash and found this pinkish red and gray, so I switched out the main color. Once I measured the flowers, I saw I needed to not only fussy cut them (blech), but I also needed to make the blocks bigger.

bigger blocks, fatter arrows

bigger blocks, fatter arrows

I also wanted the arrows to REALLY come out, so I changed the ratio and made that center strip wider, for a fatter arrow.

Once the blocks came together, I was sorely disappointed at how the arrows looked. They really just didn’t pop out!

pinwheel fail

pinwheel fail

I did like how the creamy sashing popped out, but didn’t love the quilt (except the colors). So I decided to take the left over strips, cut a few more and make a piano key border with the flower fabric in the corners.

December border

December border

I LOVE how it turned out with this border. If I wasn’t exhausted I might have added another round of the cream sashing to the outside of the piano keys. But I was done so here it is :). I think it’s really amazing how spending a bit of extra time on the border completely turned around how I felt about this quilt!

December quilt

December quilt

Now, I know this began as a 12 month challenge, but the thing is, I have 2 more planned that I feel compelled to make. But I ALSO have a challenge already set for 2015. That will take a while to execute, so I may continue sharing this project as long as it interests me :).

Happy quilting my friends. And Happy New Year!

So let’s compare again:

“The” block –

"THE" block

“THE” block

January result – all scraps in turquoise, bright pink and green (and white)

finished quilt top

finished quilt top

February result – scrap white and purple dyed, sashing matches center blocks (focal fabric)

February quilt

February quilt

March result – different center, but magenta and purple and white match it. I placed the white and purple triangles specifically to ensure the pinwheel came out

march quilt

march quilt

April result – crayon box threw up. center squares were inspiration, all brights were scraps that matched lines in center squares. totally random placement

april quilt

april quilt

May’s version – I think this should be called sunburst

may version of monthly block

may version of monthly block

Here is the quilt WITH the border –

may quilt top with border

may quilt top with border

I keep these two photos in here because I think it’s SO important to include a border on quilts. It makes a frame, which is like closure for your eyes. I think it makes a quilt look finished.

And here’s June –

June version quilt top

June version quilt top

And, July

Julys quilt top

Julys quilt top

While I like the more complete/less sparse look of July over June, I think if I made this quilt top in different colors, with something lighter than the red, that I might like the finished product even more.

August:

August monthly version

August monthly version

September:

September monthly version

September monthly version

October:

October quilt

October quilt

November:

November quilt top

November quilt top

And December:

December quilt

December quilt

See how many different quilts can be made with just one block and a little imagination? Don’t be put off by a quilt pattern photo in colors you don’t like – give the pattern a good, hearty look, and consider how YOU could make it with fabric you DO like! Or change the setting, add alternating blocks even! It might end up becoming your favorite quilt!

 

 

December quilt is coming, and so is 2015 challenge!

OK fans! I had a plan when I made November’s quilt for what December’s quilt would become. HOWEVER….. I changed it.

the plan

the plan

FOR GOOD reason I SWEAR! I had a panel planned out! I bought it, measured it, planned the blocks around it, found (and even bought) coordinating colors for the parts, and was about to get to work on it.

coordinating fabrics

coordinating fabrics

Then I realized how difficult these measurements were becoming. Trying to make a panel that is three wide, each piece measuring 23″ tall by 14.5″ wide, work with a block that is 9.5″ unfinished is VERY tedious. I tried to figure it out with sashing, with separating the panels, changing the size of the block or skooching in the panels, none of it worked.

the panel

the panel

Needless to say, I realized this just wasn’t going to work. Sooooo, I wondered to myself what do I do now?

My wheels are already turning on next years project, so I wanted to go with something bold, but something that was still different from previous months. I know what the setting is going to be this time, I just had to pick my colors.

I decided to do a darkish red and gray, and found a perfect big red flower on a gray background that made a perfect center. But the flower is bigger than the normal block center size. So I changed the scale for this month. AND I changed something else (but you’ll have to wait and see!)

I’ve got my pieces cut, and still a few days to get them together. It will be AWESOME! Just wait a few more days and I’ll post it!

XO